New Philadelphia, Ohio – Students and entrepreneurs in Tuscarawas County soon will be able to test, develop and implement their business ideas through a new “Makerspace” being created by the Kent State University at Tuscarawas Academic Learning Commons.
The OhioLINK member and eastern Ohio regional campus facility is part of a growing trend for libraries to offer these creative spaces where people can gather to create, invent and learn, often using equipment that would be cost prohibitive to purchase independently, such as 3D printers. A 2013 survey by John Burke, director of the Gardner-Harvey Library, Miami University, found that 109 libraries in the United States had a Makerspace or were close to opening one.
“The University library has evolved. Our value goes beyond traditional library services,” Cherie Bronkar, director of the Kent State Tuscarawas campus library, said when asked about the impetus for the project. “Adding a Makerspace and partnering with local business development agencies enables us to extend beyond our walls and support the entire community in economic development.”
Equipment in the Tuscarawas library Makerspace will include a 3D printer, Wakom tablets for drawing and painting, a vinyl cutter, electronics and robotics kits, and a touch screen presentation monitor.
The $24,900 federal grant from the Library Services and Technology Act, which is managed in Ohio by the State Library of Ohio, includes an $8,000 (or 25 percent) match from Kent State at Tuscarawas, for a grant total of $30,000. Major partners include Kent State Tuscarawas Office of Business and Community Services, the Ohio Small Business Development Center, and the Blackstone Launchpad.
Many of the students who attend the regional campus want to start a business. “Our students needed a place to apply their education to a business idea and create a product,” Bronkar said.
“Now, they will be able to come to the Makerspace, where they can use state-of-the-art equipment to develop and test their ideas,” Bronkar said. “Plus, through our partners, students will have the resources to develop their ideas into solid, marketable plans and further develop their products through the university’s Tolloty Technology Incubator.”
As part of the Makerspace, the Kent State University at Tuscarawas Office of Business and Community Services will be developing workshops and seminars on topics such as accessing the regional “entrepreneurial ecosystem,” entrepreneur boot camp, securing financing and Angel investors, public relations and marketing, and other topics related to the incubation of newly created businesses. Students will also be able to use the department’s professional video production studio for promoting their business ideas.
The Ohio Small Business Development Center also will conduct trainings and workshops in the library on topics such as business start-ups, cash management and financial controls, and business tax requirements.
“OhioLINK resources are invaluable for this business-creation process,” Bronkar added. “Students rely on OhioLINK to research business reviews, ideas and marketing materials.”
Additionally, Blackstone Launchpad at Kent State University, a program for supporting nascent entrepreneurs, will work closely with the library to identify training needs, conduct workshops, and hold speaker events and experiential competitions for clients of the Makerspace.
Combined, these resources added up to immense support for people to turn an idea into a business – all while staying in Tuscarawas County.
“A student who has a business idea can come to the Makerspace to develop it into a marketable product, then rent space across the street at Tolloty Technology Incubator to build the business, then eventually establish the business in the Tuscarawas Regional Technology Park,” Bronkar said. “The Makerspace encourages people to start their businesses here, and, hopefully, keep their businesses in our community.”